By: Jen Jarvis and Al Jarvis
Nuclear plant workers accrue most of their radiation exposure during refueling outages, when many plant systems are opened for corrective and preventive maintenance. The total refueling outage radiation exposure can be 100-200 person-Rem at a typical Boiling Water Reactor (BWR), and 30-100 person-Rem at a typical Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR). Accrued refueling outage radiation exposure values can be significantly greater than these values depending upon radiation fields, outage work scope, and emergent work. Outage radiation exposure is one metric used by a plant to determine outage success and by industry regulators in assessing the overall performance of a plant. Plants with high personnel radiation exposure tend to be those plants with more equipment problems and more unscheduled shutdowns; consequently, they may be subjected to increased regulatory oversight.
Radiation source term assessments are performed to understand the causes of high collective radiation exposure and to help plants evaluate their strategies for source term reduction. This involves understanding how a plant’s material choices and chemistry and operational history influence the radiation fields that develop in the plant systems. Consequently, a source term evaluation is very plant-specific, but can help a plant identify which strategies may be most effective for their specific situation.